Culture of Cambodia
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Traditional Khmer dance
The culture of Cambodia has had a rich and varied history dating back many centuries, and
has been heavily influenced by India and China. Throughout Cambodia's long history, a
major source of inspiration was from religion. Throughout nearly two millennium,
Cambodians developed a unique Khmer belief from the syncreticism of indigenous animistic
beliefs and the Indian religions of Buddhism and Hinduism. Indian culture and civilization,
including its language and arts reached mainland Southeast Asia around the 1st century A.D.
Its is generally believed that seafaring merchants brought Indian customs and culture to ports
along the Gulf of Thailand and the Pacific while trading with China. The first state to benefit
from this was Funan.
2 Architecture and housing
4 Ways of life
o 4.1 Birth and death rituals
o 4.2 Childhood and adolescence
o 4.3 Courtship, marriage, and divorce
o 4.4 Social organization
o 4.5 Customs
7 Arts and literature
o 7.1 Visual art
o 7.2 Music
o 7.3 Dance
o 7.4 Literature
o 7.5 Shadow Theatre
o 7.6 Film
9 See also
11 External links
The golden age of Cambodia was between the 9th and 14th century, during the Angkor
period, during which it was a powerful and prosperous empire that flourished and dominated
almost all of inland south east Asia. However, Angkor would eventually collapse after much
in-fighting between royalty and constant warring with its increasingly powerful neighbors,
notably Siam and Dai Viet. Many temples from this period however, like Bayon and Angkor
Wat still remain today, scattered throughout Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as a
reminder of the grandeur of Khmer arts and culture. Cambodia's unparalleled achievements in
art, architectures, music, and dance during this period have had a great influence on many
neighboring kingdoms, namely Thailand and Laos. The affect of Angkorian culture can still
be seen today in those countries, as they share many close characteristics with current-day
Cambodia. Today, they call them Khmer.
 Architecture and housing
Main article: Architecture of Cambodia
The Angkorian architects and sculptors created temples that mapped the cosmic world in
stone. Khmer decorations drew inspiration from religion, and mythical creatures from
Hinduism and Buddhism were carved on walls. Temples were built in accordance to the rule
of ancient Khmer architecture that dictated that a basic temple layout include a central shrine,
a courtyard, an enclosing wall, and a moat. Khmer motifs use many creatures from Buddhist
and Hindu mythology, like the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, use motifs such as the garuda, a
mythical bird in the Hinduism. The architecture of Cambodia developed in stages under the
Khmer empire from 9th to the 15th century, preserved in many buildings of the Angkor
temple. The remains of secular architecture from this time are rare, as only religious buildings
were made of stone. The architecture of the Angkor period used specific structural features
and styles, which are one of the main methods used to date the temples, along with
Angkor Wat, The most Cambodian famous heritage.
In modern rural Cambodia, the nuclear family typically lives in a rectangular house that may
vary in size from four by six meters to six by ten meters. It is constructed of a wooden frame
with gabled thatch roof and walls of woven bamboo. Khmer house typically are raised on
stilts as much as three meters for protection from annual floods. Two ladders or wooden
staircases provide access to the house. The steep thatch roof overhanging the house walls
protects the interior from rain. Typically a house contains three rooms separated by partitions
of woven bamboo. The front room serves as a living room used to receive visitors, the next
room is the parents' bedroom, and the third is for unmarried daughters. Sons sleep anywhere
they can find space. Family members and neighbors work together to build the house, and a
house-raising ceremony is held upon its completion. The houses of poorer persons may
contain only a single large room. Food is prepared in a separate kitchen located near the house
but usually behind it. Toilet facilities consist of simple pits in the ground, located away from
the house, that are covered up when filled. Any livestock is kept below the house. Chinese
and Vietnamese houses in Cambodian town and villages typically are built directly on the
ground and have earthen, cement, or tile floors, depending upon the economic status of the
owner. Urban housing and commercial buildings may be of brick, masonry, or wood.
Buddhist nun at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia (January 2005).
Main article: Religion in Cambodia
Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist with 90% of the population being Theravada Buddhist,
1% Christian and the majority of the remaining population follow Islam, atheism, or animism.
Buddhism has existed in Cambodia since at least the 5th century CE. Theravada Buddhism
has been the Cambodian state religion since the 13th century CE (excepting the Khmer Rouge
period), and is currently estimated to be the faith of 90% of the population. 
Islam is the religion of a majority of the Cham (also called Khmer Islam) and Malay
minorities in Cambodia. According to Po Dharma, there were 150,000 to 200,000 Muslims in
Cambodia as late as 1975. Persecution under the Khmer Rouge eroded their numbers,
however, and by the late 1980s they probably had not regained their former strength. All of
the Cham Muslims are Sunnis of the Shafi'i school. Po Dharma divides the Muslim Cham in
Cambodia into a traditionalist branch and an orthodox branch.
Christianity was introduced into Cambodia by Roman Catholic missionaries in 1660.
however, it made little headway at first, particularly among Buddhists. In 1972 there were
probably about 20,000 Christians in Cambodia, most of whom were Roman Catholics.
According to Vatican statistics, in 1953, members of the Roman Catholic Church in
Cambodia numbered 120,000, making it, at that time, the second largest religion in the
country. In April 1970, just before repatriation, estimates indicate that about 50,000 Catholics
were Vietnamese. Many of the Catholics remaining in Cambodia in 1972 were Europeans—
chiefly French. American Protestant missionary activity increased in Cambodia, especially
among some of the hill tribes and among the Cham, after the establishment of the Khmer
Republic. The 1962 census, which reported 2,000 Protestants in Cambodia, remains the most
recent statistic for the group. Observers reported that in 1980 there were more registered
Khmer Christians among the refugees in camps in Thailand than in all of Cambodia before
1970. Kiernan notes that, until June 1980, five weekly Protestant services were held in Phnom
Penh by a Khmer pastor, but that they had been reduced to a single weekly service after police
harassment. There are around 20,000 Catholics in Cambodia which represents only 0.15%
of the total population. There are no dioceses, but there are three territorial jurisdictions - one
Apostolic Vicariate and two Apostolic Prefectures.
Highland tribal groups, most with their own local religious systems, probably number fewer
than 100,000 persons. The Khmer Loeu have been loosely described as animists, but most
tribal groups have their own pantheon of local spirits. In general they see their world filled
with various invisible spirits (often called yang), some benevolent, others malevolent. They
associate spirits with rice, soil, water, fire, stones, paths, and so forth. Sorcerers or specialists
in each village contact these spirits and prescribe ways to appease them. In times of crisis or
change, animal sacrifices may be made to placate the anger of the spirits. Illness is often
believed to be caused by evil spirits or sorcerers. Some tribes have special medicine men or
shamans who treat the sick. In addition to belief in spirits, villagers believe in taboos on many
objects or practices. Among the Khmer Loeu, the Rhade and Jarai groups have a well
developed hierarchy of spirits with a supreme ruler at its head.
 Ways of life
 Birth and death rituals
The birth of a child is a happy event for the family. According to traditional beliefs, however,
confinement and childbirth expose the family, and especially the mother and the child to harm
from the spirit world. A woman who dies in childbirth—crosses the river (chhlong tonle) in
Khmer is believed to become an evil spirit. In traditional Khmer society, a pregnant woman
respects a number of food taboos and avoids certain situations. These traditions remain in
practice in rural Cambodia, but they have become weakened in urban areas.
Death is not viewed with the great outpouring of grief common to Western society; it is
viewed as the end of one life and as the beginning of another life that one hopes will be better.
Buddhist Khmer usually are cremated, and their ashes are deposited in a stupa in the temple
compound. A corpse is washed, dressed, and placed in a coffin, which may be decorated with
flowers and with a photograph of the deceased. White pennant-shaped flags, called "white
crocodile flags," outside a house indicate that someone in that household has died. A funeral
procession consisting of an achar, Buddhist monks, members of the family, and other
mourners accompanies the coffin to the crematorium. The spouse and the children show
mourning by shaving their heads and by wearing white clothing. Relics such as teeth or pieces
of bone are prized by the survivors, and they are often worn on gold chains as amulets. If
the child is always ill, his or her parents can go and change the name of child
 Childhood and adolescence
Cambodian girls on a bicycle
Main article: Childhood and adolescence in Cambodia
A Cambodian child may be nursed until he or she is between two and four years of age. Up to
the age of three or four, the child is given considerable physical affection and freedom.
Children around five years of age also may be expected to help look after younger siblings.
Children's games emphasize socialization or skill rather than winning and losing.
Most children begin school when they are seven or eight. By the time they reach this age, they
are familiar with the society's norms of politeness, obedience, and respect toward their elders
and toward Buddhist monks. The father at this time begins his permanent retreat into a
relatively remote, authoritarian role. By age ten, a girl is expected to help her mother in basic
household tasks; a boy knows how to care for the family's livestock and can do farm work
under the supervision of older males. Adolescent children usually play with members of the
same sex. During his teens, a boy may become a temple servant and go on to serve a time as a
novice monk, which is a great honor for the parents.
In precommunist days, parents exerted complete authority over their children until the
children were married, and the parents continued to maintain some control well into the
marriage. Age difference is strictly recognized with polite vocabulary and special generational
terms for "you".
 Courtship, marriage, and divorce
Main article: Courtship, marriage, and divorce in Cambodia
In Cambodia, premarital sex is deplored. The choice of a spouse is a complex one for the
young male, and it may involve not only his parents and his friends, as well as those of the
young woman, but also a matchmaker. In theory, a girl may veto the spouse her parents have
chosen. Courtship patterns differ between rural and urban Khmer; romantic love is a notion
that exists to a much greater extent in larger cities. A man usually marries between the ages of
nineteen and twenty-five, a girl between the ages of sixteen and twenty-two. After a spouse
has been selected, each family investigates the other to make sure its child is marrying into a
good family. In rural areas, there is a form of bride-service; that is, the young man may take a
vow to serve his prospective father-in-law for a period of time.
Bride and groom at a Cambodian wedding
The traditional wedding is a long and colorful affair. Formerly it lasted three days, but in the
1980s it more commonly lasted a day and a half. Buddhist priests offer a short sermon and
recite prayers of blessing. Parts of the ceremony involve ritual hair cutting, tying cotton
threads soaked in holy water around the bride's and groom's wrists, and passing a candle
around a circle of happily married and respected couples to bless the union. After the
wedding, a banquet is held. Newlyweds traditionally move in with the wife's parents and may
live with them up to a year, until they can build a new house nearby.
Divorce is legal and relatively easy to obtain, but not common. Divorced persons are
viewed with some disapproval. Each spouse retains whatever property he or she brought into
the marriage, and jointly-acquired property is divided equally. Divorced persons may remarry,
but the woman must wait ten months. Custody of minor children is usually given to the
mother, and both parents continue to have an obligation to contribute financially toward the
rearing and education of the child.
 Social organization
Main article: Social organization in Cambodia
Khmer culture is very hierarchical. The greater a person's age, the greater the level of respect
that must be granted to them. Cambodians are addressed with a hierarchical title
corresponding to their seniority before the name. When a married couple becomes too old to
support themselves, they may invite the youngest child's family to move in and to take over
running the household. At this stage in their lives, they enjoy a position of high status.
The individual Khmer is surrounded by a small inner circle of family and friends who
constitute his or her closest associates, those he would approach first for help. The nuclear
family, consisting of a husband and a wife and their unmarried children, is the most important
kin group. Within this unit are the strongest emotional ties, the assurance of aid in the event of
trouble, economic cooperation in labor, sharing of produce and income, and contribution as a
unit to ceremonial obligations. In rural communities, neighbors—who are often also kin—
may be important, too. Fictive child-parent, sibling, and close friend relationships Cambodia
transcend kinship boundaries and serve to strengthen interpersonal and interfamily ties.
Beyond this close circle are more distant relatives and casual friends. In rural Cambodia, the
strongest ties a Khmer may develop—besides those to the nuclear family and to close
friends—are those to other members of the local community. A strong feeling of pride—for
the village, for the district, and province—usually characterizes Cambodian community life.
Legally, the husband is the head of the Khmer family, but the wife has considerable authority,
especially in family economics. The husband is responsible for providing shelter and food for
his family; the wife is generally in charge of the family budget, and she serves as the major
ethical and religious model for the children, especially the daughters. Both husbands and
wives are responsible for domestic economic tasks.
Sampeah (Cambodian greeting)
In Khmer culture a person's head is believed to contain the persons soul--therefore making it
taboo to touch or point your feet at it. It is also considered to be extremely disrespectful to
point or sleep with your feet pointing at a person, as the feet are the lowest part of the body
and are considered to be impure.
When greeting people or to show respect in Cambodia people do the "sampeah" gesture,
identical to the Indian namaste and Thai wai
Customary Cambodian teachings include: that if a person does not wake up before sunrise he
is lazy; you have to tell your parents or elders where you are going and what time you are
coming back home; close doors gently, otherwise you have a bad temper; sit with your legs
straight down and not crossed (crossing your legs shows that you are an impolite person); and
always let other people talk more than you.
Main article: Cambodian clothing
Clothing in Cambodia is one of the most important aspects of the culture. Cambodian fashion
is divided by the people's differing castes and social classes. Cambodians traditionally wear a
checkered scarf called a "Krama". The "krama" is what distinctly separates the Khmer
(Cambodians) from their neighbors the Thai, the Vietnamese, and the Laotians. The scarf is
used for many purposes including for style, protection from the sun, an aid (for your feet)
when climbing trees, a hammock for infants, a towel, or as a "sarong". A "krama" can also be
easily shaped into a small child's doll for play. Under the Khmer Rouge, krama of various
patterns were part of standard clothing.
The long-popular traditional costume known as the Sampot, a Chinese-influenced costume
which Cambodians wore since the Funan era, has lost popularity. However, Khmer People's
clothing also changed depending on the time period and religion. From the Funan era back to
the Angkor Era, there was a strong invasion of Hinduism which influenced Cambodian
fashion to have upper naked, wear Sampot and wear their jewelry like bracelets and
especially, collars like Sarong Kor, a symbol of Hinduism.
After the decrease in popularity of Hinduism, leading to Buddhism, Khmer people started
wearing the blouse, shirt and trousers of Khmer style. Most important of all, Khmer people,
both common and royal, stopped wearing the Hindu-style collars and began to adopt shawls
like Sbai with beautiful decoration instead. This new clothing style was popular from the
Chatomok region to Oudok period.
A Khmer lady habitually chooses the right colour for her Sampot or blouse, both to please
herself and to follow the costume of good luck.
Some Cambodians still wear a religious style of clothing. Some Khmer men and women wear
a Buddha pendant in a necklace fashion. There are different pendants for different uses; some
are meant for protection from evil spirits, some are meant to bring good luck.
Otherwise, in the notable class people in Cambodia, especially the royal caste, have adapted a
well known dress as well as expensive fashion style.Sampot is still well recognized among the
royalty. Most royalty prefer Sampot Phamung, a new version of sampot adapted by Thai
people in the 17th century. Since the Oudok period, most royalty have retained their dressing
habits. Female royalty created the most attractive fashion. The lady always wears a traditional
cape called sbai or rabai kanorng, which is draped over the left shoulder, leaving the right
shoulder bare. Rarely was the cape worn over the right shoulder. The sbai or rabai kanorng
would have been sumptuously fashioned in the old days in threads of genuine gold or silver.
The cape in the old days would have hung down to the hem of the Sampot.
Dancers wear a collar known as Sarong Kor around their necks. Importantly, they wear a
unique skirt called Sampot sara-bhap (lamé), made from silk inter-woven with gold or silver
threads, forming elaborate and intricate designs that shimmer as the dancers move. This is
held in place with a bejewelled belt. A multitude of jewellery is also worn by the female
dancers. These include earrings, several pairs of bangles, a garland of flowers in the form of a
bracelet, bracelets, anklets and an armlet that is worn on the right. Several body chains cross
over the body like a sash. A circular or diamond shaped pendant is worn around the neck.
There are several different types of mokot worn by female royalty. The typical mokots that
are worn are much similar to those of male royalty. Some crowns are just like tiaras where at
the back of the mokot hair is let loose, cascading down the back. Other mokots have a few
accessories such as ear pieces that would sit above the ear and help hold the mokot in place
while a comb at the back is just an added accessory. Flowers are also worn on the mokot in
the same style, but the hanging garlands of flowers are worn on the left and the bouquet is
worn on the right. The best example of these royal clothes is illustrated by Khmer classical
dance costumes, which are an adaptation of the beautiful royalty costume.
Amok, a popular Cambodian dish
Main article: Cuisine of Cambodia
Khmer cuisine is similar to that of its Southeast Asian neighbors. It shares many similarites
with Thai cuisine, Vietnamese cuisine and Teochew cuisine. Cambodian cuisine also uses fish
sauce widely in soups, stir-fried cuisine, and as dippings. The Chinese legacy of Stir frying
can be noted in the use of many variations of rice noodles; while Curry dishes known as kari
(in Khmer, ) that employ dried spices such as star anise, cardamom, cinnamon,
nutmeg and fennel were borrowed from the Indians and given a distinctive Cambodian twist
with the addition of local ingredients like lemongrass, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, shallots and
galangal. Pork broth rice noodle soup known simply as ka tieu ( ) is one of
Cambodia's popular dish. Also, Banh Chiao is the Khmer version of the Vietnamese Bánh
Khmer cuisine is noted for the use of prahok ( ), a type of fermented fish paste, in
many dishes as a distinctive flavoring. When prahok is not used, it is likely to be kapǐ
( ) instead, a kind of fermented shrimp paste. Coconut milk is the main ingredient of
many Khmer curries and desserts. In Cambodia there is regular aromatic rice and glutinous or
sticky rice. The latter is used more in dessert dishes with fruits such as durian. Almost every
meal is eaten with a bowl of rice. Typically, Cambodians eat their meals with at least three or
four separate dishes. Each individual dish will usually be one of either sweet, sour, salty or
bitter. Chili is usually left up to the individual to add themselves. In this way Cambodians
ensure that they get a bit of every flavor to satisfy their palates.
Otherwise,Cuisine of Cambodians also become unique depend on some area of different
ethnics.In Kampot and Kep, famous for its cuisine known Kampot Pepper Crab or Kdab Cha
Mrin Kyai ( ) in khmer.With its name Kampot Pepper crab, this
cuisine is mostly cooking with kampot famous crap fried with the pepper from pepper field in
the area. While in Pailin, Mee Kola is was born in that place, create by Kula people who is
one of ethnic groups in Cambodia.In southern Cambodia, most of Vietnamese cuisine had
been found especially Bánh tráng which is so famous dish in southern Cambodia but just few
people from Central, had ever eat this meals.Look forward to The area between Siem Reap to
Kampong Thom, a village with full of Chinese Cambodian.A lot of deilicious dishes from
China in Khmer version explored for the guest in family as well as its urban restaurants.
 Arts and literature
 Visual art
Stone carving at Banteay Srei (Angkor)
Main articles: Visual arts of Cambodia and Khmer sculpture
The history of visual arts in Cambodia stretches back centuries to ancient crafts; Khmer art
reached its peak during the Angkor period. Traditional Cambodian arts and crafts include
textiles, non-textile weaving, silversmithing, stone carving, lacquerware, ceramics, wat
murals, and kite-making. Beginning in the mid-20th century, a tradition of modern art began
in Cambodia, though in the later 20th century both traditional and modern arts declined for
several reasons, including the killing of artists by the Khmer Rouge. The country has
experienced a recent artistic revival due to increased support from governments, NGOs, and
The roneat has been described as a bamboo xylophone.
Main article: Music of Cambodia
Especially in the 60s and 70s, the 'big two' duet of Sinn Sisamouth and Ros Sereysothea had
been a large hit in the country. However after their deaths, new music stars have tried to bring
back the music. Cambodian music has undergone heavy westernization.
The Cambodian pinpeat ensemble is traditionally heard on feast days in the pagodas. It is also
a court ensemble used to accompany classical dance for ritual occasions or theatrical events.
The pinpeat is primarily made up of percussion instruments: the roneat ek (lead xylophone),
roneat thung (low bamboo xylophone), kong vong touch and kong vong thom (small and
large sets of tuned gongs), sampho (two-sided drum), skor thom (two large drums), and sralai
Main article: Dance of Cambodia
Cambodian Dance can be divided into three main categories: classical dance, folk dances, and
Khmer classical dance is a form of Cambodian dance originally performed only for royalty.
The dances have many elements in common with Thai classical dance. During the mid-20th
century, it was introduced to the public where it now remains a celebrated icon of Khmer
culture, often being performed during public events, holidays, and for tourists visiting
Cambodia.this classical Dance is famous for its using of hands and feet to express emotion
which known as there are 4,000 different gestures in this type of dance. Provided as repeating
a golden age in 1960s, Khmer Classical Dance which know as The Royal Ballet of Cambodia
after select as UNESCO's Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, has
lead one of its dance to be a outstanding dance of all for culture and society. Reamker, a
khmer version of Indian, Ramayana had influced strongly to Khmer classical dance. It
involved in khmer gesture, movement and story line.The dance that divided from Reamker
Dance known as robam sovann macha and robam moni mekala. In Facts, all of Dance
reminded the audience of celestial dance which is an angel or Apsara in sansrit mythology in
goal of bring the good luck and success to the viewer. The Classical dance is create by the
heart of high art as the performer is decorated with themselves with a branches of jewellry.
Apsara Dance, a khmer dance that has survived since the Angkor Era, has been singled out to
attract foreign tourists and to make the richness of khmer culture known to the world. Apsara
Dance was promoted by Princess Norodom Bopha Devi before the Khmer Rouge times and
recently has received an award as one of the main symbols of Cambodia.
Khmer folk dances, which are performed for audiences, are fast-paced. The movements and
gestures are not as stylized as Khmer classical dance. Folk dancers wear clothes of the people
they are portraying such as Chams, hill tribes, farmers, and peasants. The folk dance music is
played by a mahori orchestra.
Cambodian vernacular dances (or social dances) are those danced at social gatherings. Such
dances include ram vong, ram kbach, ram saravan, and lam leav. Some of these dances have
much influence from the traditional dances of Laos. But rom kbach, for example, take heavily
from the classical dance of the royal court. Other social dances from around the world have
had an impact on Cambodian social culture include the Cha-cha, Bolero, and the Madison.
Main article: Literature of Cambodia
A testimony of the antiquity of the Khmer language are the multitude of epigraphic
inscriptions on stone. The first written proof that has allowed the history of the Khmer
Kingdom to be reconstructed are those inscriptions. These writings on columns, stelae and
walls throw light on the royal lineages, religious edicts, territorial conquests and internal
organization of the kingdom.
Following the stone inscriptions, some of the oldest Khmer documents are translations and
commentaries of the Pali Buddhist texts of the Tripitaka. They were written by the monks on
palmyra palm leaves and kept in various monasteries throughout the country.
The Ram Ker (Rama's fame) is the Cambodian version of the Ramayana, the famous Indian
epic. The Ram Ker comes in rhymed verses and is staged in sections that are adapted to dance
movements interpreted by local artists. The Ram Ker is the oldest form of Cambodian theatre.
A scene depicts the love storm of Tum and Teav in the Tum Teav illustration.
Cambodia had a rich and varied traditional oral literature. There are many legends, tales and
songs of very ancient origin that were not put into writing until the arrival of the Europeans.
One of the most representative of these tales was the story of Vorvong and Sorvong (Vorvong
and Saurivong), a long story about two Khmer princes that was first put into writing by
Auguste Pavie. This French civil servant claimed that he had obtained the story from old
Uncle Nip in Somrontong District. This story was put into writing in Battambang. In 2006
the Vorvong and Sorvong story was enacted in dance form by the Royal Ballet of
Tum Teav which has been compared to a local version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, is
a khmer famous literature,originally based on a poem written by a Khmer Monk named
Sam.The story is took place during Lovek era, about tragic love story that has been told
throughout Cambodia since at least the middle of the 19th century.The story has been
portrayed in many forms including oral, historical, literary, theatre, and film adaptions.The
story also have a role in Cambodia's education in the 12th grade as a topic for Khmer
language examination for several times. Although its first translation in French had been
made by Étienne Aymonier already in 1880, Tum Teav was popularized abroad when writer
George Chigas translated the 1915 literary version by the venerable Buddhist monk Preah
Botumthera Som or Padumatthera Som, known also as Som, one of the best writers in the
The notable people especially in royalty caste which in attraction and talented in khmer
literature known as King Ang Duong (1841-1860) and King Thommaracha II (1629-1634).
King Thomaracha had reserved for Khmer young generation with a well loved poem and a
educated poem while King Ang Duong famous for his novel called Kakey , an inspiration
from Jataka tales about an unfaithful woman and a female law which now become a notable
law, used to teach the young khmer girl in some notable famil today.
 Shadow Theatre
Nang sbek (shadow theatre) (or Lkhaon Nang Sbek; Khmer: ) is
closely related to the Nang Yai of Thailand, Wayang of Malaysia and Indonesia like the
Islands of Java and Bali, thus implying that nang sbek may have came from an Indonesian or
Malaysian origin from many centuries ago. Nang sbek is also a dying art form and may
disappear because of the decline in popularity over the years with the introduction of modern
entertainment. Before the spread of modern technology such as movies, videos and television
the Khmers enjoyed and watch shadow theatre apart from the other sources of entertainment
available around during that time. There are three kinds of shadow theatre in Cambodia:
Nang sbek thom is an art that involves mime, song, music and having to dance as well as narration to
the accompaniment of the Pinpeat orchestra.It is mainly features the Reamker.
Nang sbek toch also called nang kalun and sometimes called ayang (small shadow theatre) uses
smaller puppets and a wide range of stories.
Sbek paor (coloured puppet theatre) uses colored leather puppets.
Main article: Cinema in Cambodia
Cinema in Cambodia began in the 1950s; King Norodom Sihanouk himself was an avid film
enthusiast. Many films were being screened in theaters throughout the country by the 1960s,
which are regarded as the "golden age". After a decline during the Khmer Rouge regime,
competition from video and television has meant that the Cambodian film industry is
relatively weak today.
Main article: Sport in Cambodia
Cambodia has increasingly become involved in sports over the last 30 years. Football is
popular as are martial arts, including Bokator, Pradal Serey (Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer
Bokator is an ancient Khmer martial art said to be the predecessor of all Southeast Asian
kickboxing styles. Depicted in bas reliefs at Angkor Wat, Bokator was the close quarter
combat system used by the ancient Angkor army. Unlike kick boxing, which is a sport
fighting art, Boxkator was a soldier’s art, designed to be used on the battlefield. When
fighting, Bokator practitioners still wear the uniforms of ancient Khmer armies. A kroma
(scarf) is folded around their waist and blue and red silk cords are tied around the combatant's
head and biceps.
Young Cambodian boxers
Pradal Serey, or traditional Khmer boxing, is a popular sport in Cambodia. Victory is by
knockout or by judge's decision. Styles of boxing have been practiced in Southeast Asia since
ancient times. In the Angkor era, both armed and unarmed martial arts were practiced by the
Khmers. Evidence shows that a style resembling Pradal Serey existed around the 9th century.
There have been heated debates between nations about the true origins of South East Asian
Khmer traditional wrestling is yet another popular Cambodian sport. Wrestling match consists
of three rounds, which may be won by forcing an opponent to his back. Traditional matches
are held during the Khmer New Year and other Cambodian holidays.
The Cambodian Football Federation is the governing body of football in Cambodia,
controlling the Cambodian national team. It was founded in 1933, and has been a member of
FIFA since 1953 and the Asian Football Confederation since 1957.
Phnom Pehn National Olympic Stadium is the national stadium with a capacity of 50,000 in
 See also
Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Cambodia
Sport in Cambodia
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Young Cambodian boys playing soccer
Cambodia has increasingly become involved in sports over the last 30 years.
Football is popular as is martial arts in particular. The martial arts of Bokator, Pradal Serey
(Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer traditional wrestling are all practised in the country.
1 The ancient sport of Bokator
2 Pradal Serey
o 2.1 History
2.1.1 The Near Extinction of Pradal Serey
2.1.2 Pradal Serey Today
o 2.2 Attempt of Cambodian to unite Southeast Asian Boxing Style
3 Notable Khmer Boxers
4 Khmer Traditional Wrestling
6 Sepak Takraw
7 Traditional Boat Racing
 The ancient sport of Bokator
Main article: Bokator
Bokator/Boxkator, or more formally, Labok Katao (which means wielding a wooden stick
to fight lions), is an ancient Khmer martial art that is based on animal forms. It has ground
fighting, close combat techniques and weaponry. Bokator weaves together Cambodia's
ancient religious traditions of Buddhism and Brahmanism.
Unlike kick boxing, which is a sport fighting art, Boxkator was a soldier’s art, designed to be
used on the battlefield. It can be considered a complete martial art, using strikes, throws,
drags, trapping, locking, and some elements of ground fighting. Every single part of the body
can be used as a weapon. Boxkator practitioners are trained to strike with knees, hands,
elbows, feet, shins, and head. Even the shoulders, hip, jaw, and fingers can be used to fight an
opponent to submission or death.
When fighting, Bokator practitioners still wear the uniforms of ancient Khmer armies. A
kroma (scarf) is folded around their waist and blue and red silk cords called sangvar day, are
tied around the combatants head and biceps. In the past it is said that the cords were
enchanted to increase strength, although now they are just ceremonial.
The kroma shows the fighter’s level of expertise. A series of grades, each taking at least five
months to complete training seven days a week and 2 hours a day, are represented by different
The first grade is white, followed by green, blue, red, brown and then black which has 10
After completing their initial training, fighters wear a Black Kroma (scarf) for at least another
ten years. To attain the Gold Kroma you must be a true master and must have done something
great for Boxkator. And to become a true master it will definitely take some time as just in the
unarmed portion of the art there are between 8000 and 10000 different techniques; only 1000
of which you have to learn to attain the black kroma.
The art contains 341 different styles some of which are the duck, crab, horse, bird, dragon,
eagle, crane, wind, fire, water, earth (or stone,) king monkey, lion, elephant, apsara
(traditional Hindu sacred nymph), and crocodile.
Because of its visually similar style, Bokator (Boxkator) is commonly wrongly described as a
variant of modern kick boxing. Bokator has many forms based on styles as well as straight
practical fighting techniques. While Pradal Serey is a more simplified freestyle fighting
system which uses a few of the basic (white kroma) punching, elbow, kicking and kneeing
 Pradal Serey
Main article: Pradal Serey
Pradal Serey or Traditional Khmer boxing is a popular sport in Cambodia. A match consists
of 5 sets of 3 minute rounds and takes place in a 6.1 meter square boxing ring. A one or two
minute break occurs between each round. At the beginning of each match boxers practice the
praying rituals known as the Twai Kru. Traditional Cambodian music is played during the
match. The music is played used the instruments of the skor yaul (a type of drum), the sraliai
(a flute like instrument) and the stringed chhing. Boxers wear leather gloves and shorts.
1. A boxer is not allowed to strike his opponent while he is on the ground.
2. A boxer is not allowed to bite.
3. When an opponent can not fight anymore, the referee stops the fight.
4. Blows to the back of the opponent are not allowed.
5. A boxer may not hold on to the ropes.
6. Blows to the genitals are prohibited.
Victory can be obtained by knockout. A knockout occurs when a boxer is knocked down to
the ground and can not continue fighting after a 10 second count by the referee. Victory is
also obtained from the end of the match when judges decide by a point system which fighter
was more effective. If fighters end up with the same score a draw is called.
The picture that's believed to be Pradal Serey.
Styles of boxing have been practiced in Southeast Asia since ancient times and were
developed through the influence of martial arts from India.
Khmer people believe that Pradal Serey predates other Southeast Asian forms of kickboxing.
The basis of this argument is the bas-relief of two man believed to practice Pradal Serey in
Angkor ruin, but no actual evidence can confirm that.
Ultimately Pradal Serey became a sport, during the days of the Colonial Cambodia. When the
French came they added western boxing gloves, timed rounds, and a boxing ring to civilize
the art. Originally matches were fought in dirt pits with limited rules while hands were
wrapped in rope.
 The Near Extinction of Pradal Serey
On April 17, 1975, during the chaos of the Vietnam War, a communist group called "The
Khmer Rouge" overthrew the Cambodian government and rose to power after Lon Nol's pro-
democratic government was crumbling after America left the Vietnam War . The Khmer
Rouge's plan was to eliminate modern society and create an agriculture utopia.. The Khmer
Rouge executed all educated people, others who had ties to the old government or anyone
who was believed to be an enemy (doctors, teachers, soldiers, actors, singers, Khmer boxers,
etc.) and threw the remaining Khmer population into labor camps, in which many died of
starvation and diseases, to be re-educated under the new government. An estimated 2.5
million Cambodians or 20% of the population died during Khmer Rouge Regime. This lasted
for four years until 1979 when the Vietnamese along with ex-Khmer Rouge officers
overthrew the Khmer Rouge.
Pradal Serey had been banned during the Khmer Rouge era and many boxers were executed
which caused the art of Khmer Kickboxing to be almost wiped out from Khmer history.
Today Pradal Serey is being revived in Cambodia after peace has finally been established.
 Pradal Serey Today
Pradal Serey is making a strong comeback since its banishment back in the 70's. Numerous
gyms have opened and large masses of students, local and foreign, have come to train in
Cambodia. There are weekly matches held, in which many are televised, and many of
Cambodia's best have traveled internationally to compete. There are currently about 70
boxing clubs. Cambodia is attempting to market their style of boxing to the same caliber of
 Attempt of Cambodian to unite Southeast Asian Boxing Style
Cambodians had an attempt to unite Southeast Asia's boxing styles. At an ASEAN meeting in
1995 regarding the upcoming King's Cup Muay Thai competition, Cambodia wanted to
rename Muay Thai as "Suwannaphum" boxing or "SEA Boxing", which represented
Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Suwannaphum means "golden land" in both the
Khmer and Thai which came from the language of Pali and refers to mainland Southeast Asia.
"SEA" is a popular acronym referring to Southeast Asia.
Thailand would not compromise, stating that each Southeast Asian country has its own
boxing style and Thailand is the one who pushed their style into international sport. At the
2005 Southeast Asian Games, Cambodia did not enter the Muay Thai event in protest.
 Notable Khmer Boxers
Eh Phutong- Khmer Kickboxing Champion
Oth Phouthoung-TV5 kickboxing champion
Meas Chanta - International Khmer Kickboxer
Pich Arun - International Khmer Kickboxer
Pich Sophun - International Khmer Kickboxer
Chey Kosal - International Khmer Kickboxer
Bun Sothea- Cambodian S1 champion
Try Kuntor- Cambodian Kickboxer
Bing Leung- Cambodian Kickboxer
 Khmer Traditional Wrestling
Main article: Khmer Traditional Wrestling
Cambodian martial artists
A traditional Khmer wrestling match consists of three rounds. A round may be won by
forcing an opponent to his back. A wrestler wins the match by winning two of the three
rounds. After each round the loser is asked if he wishes to continue with the match.
Wrestlers participate in pre-match ritual dancing before the match. The match is accompanied
by the music of two drums (called Skor Ngey and Chhmol, "female drum" and "male drum").
Traditional matches are held during the Khmer New Year and other Cambodian holdiays.
The Cambodian Football Federation is the governing body of football in Cambodia,
controlling the Cambodian national team. It was founded in 1933, and has been a member of
FIFA since 1953 and the Asian Football Confederation since 1957.
Phnom Pehn National Olympic Stadium is the national stadium with a capacity of 50,000 in
 Sepak Takraw
Sepak Takraw is a "kick-volleyball" sport that is popular in Southeast Asia. It may also be
known as si or chinlon in Cambodia. This sport is featured in the Southeast Asian games.
 Traditional Boat Racing
Traditional boat racing is a popular sport in Cambodia. Competition usually take place during
the water festival. Boats are usually long and contain large numbers of rowers.